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State lawmakers move forward with immigration bill

As the 2024 session of the Georgia General Assembly wound down on Thursday, lawmakers in the State House of Representatives passed a pair of controversial immigration bills.

House Bill 1105, also called the Georgia Criminal Alien Track and Report Act, would require local law enforcement agencies to verify the immigration status of people aged 18 years or older who have been arrested. It will also require local law enforcement agencies to enter annually into memoranda of understanding with federal law enforcement programs.

Rep. Jesse Petrea, a Republican from Savannah, is a sponsor of the bill.

"This bill simply ensures that when individuals have committed crimes in Georgia and are jailed and in custody, that when we determine they are illegally in this country, that we fully work with federal immigration authorities in informing them of their presence and in honoring any ICE detainers," Petrea said.

Those ICE detainers are requests from US immigration authorities to hold a suspected undocumented immigrant for up to 48 hours, to allow federal law enforcement officers to arrest the undocumented migrant.

Law enforcement agencies that refuse to comply could lose some state funding, and individual officers who flout the law could be charged with a misdemeanor offense.

House Democrats have been critical of the bill as it has made its way through the General Assembly. Speaking Thursday night, Representative Sam Park, a Democrat from Lawrenceville, questioned Petrea about the possible effects of the bill on immigrant families.

"There's a lot of concern in the Community that this bill will potentially tear apart families and cause a lot more harm than it may be intended," Park said.

State lawmakers had been working on a measure like HB 1105 since last year, but the issue gained steam in the General Assembly following the murder of Laken Riley, a former University of Georgia student, on the UGA campus.

House Bill 1105 passed the House 99-75 on party lines. It now goes to Governor Brian Kemp for his signature or veto.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.